Alicia Zweifach loves to see growth in her students at Shoreline Community College, but recently the advisor, counselor and instructor found a new way and place to dig into her work, the dirt of an organic farm on Orcas Island.
Zweifach spent the past year as a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteer at farms in France and Italy. During her leave from the college she realized that her experience was something that students could learn from … and grow from. When she returned to the Seattle area, she contacted the Doe Bay Resort, located in the San Juan Islands to discuss a possible partnership for a community service learning opportunity for students.
“I wanted to partner with Doe Bay due to their longstanding commitment to holistic health and naturopathic wellness,” Zweifach said of the resort that supports yoga, therapeutic massage, and organic eating; the majority of the produce served in their gourmet café is harvested from their onsite garden. “Doe Bay truly lives the seed-to-table philosophy and is operated from a sustainability perspective,” she said.
In early September, Zweifach offered a new version of her class, Human Development 130, Stress Management, in which students could complete the course fully online or as a hybrid. With the hybrid option, students could choose to participate in a service learning partnership during the last weekend of the course. Eight of the 15 students chose to get their hands dirty and reap the harvest at Doe Bay. The primary focus of the community service learning project was preparing one of the rotating gardens for fall plantings. As part of the process, students weeded, tilled, mulched and harvested seeds from the gardens. Photo: Heather Layton tackles the weeds.
The idea of the community service learning project is as healthy as the potatoes they harvested. ”The earth provides a basic template for stress management,” Zweifach said. “Working in the garden teaches us the important lessons … weeding out the dead or decaying elements of our lives, rejuvenating our mind, bodies and spirits through rotation and change, and nourishing ourselves daily.”
The service learning project also provided a perfect respite from the students’ busy lives to reflect, learn and grow in a community setting. Zweifach added that learning and working together provided the students a valuable opportunity to see each other in new ways and open their minds to new viewpoints and perspectives.
She was pleased with the receptivity of the owners of the resort, Maureen and Joe Brotherton and Assistant Manager, Jami Mitchell.
Mitchell said that the partnership provides a chance for Doe Bay Resort to open new doors for students who might never have gotten to really ‘dig in’ to organic gardening before. She says this is the first organized community learning project that Doe Bay Resort has hosted onsite. Photo: Christina Thompson and daughter, Solanna
“Consuming less and decreasing our waste are some of the most solid contributions we can make to a healthier world. By learning about organic gardening and taking that step to begin producing even a portion of our own food is an excellent step in the right direction,” Mitchell said. “Teaching through the example of our own Seed to Table program here at Doe Bay Resort is a gift we gladly give to the Shoreline students and the greater community. It is inspiring to see this alternative business model flourish, especially after participating hands-on as the Shoreline students did”
Doe Bay Resort and the college have agreed to an ongoing partnership, with Zweifach planning on taking students to the resort every quarter. “I appreciate the college supporting innovative teaching practices such as this course, and am grateful that this was such a positive and successful experience for students.’
Last October, the college joined Washington Campus Compact, a statewide coalition of colleges and universities to promote service learning. Washington Campus Compact has a grant from AmeriCorps*VISTA to help serve people in poverty through service learning. According to Ken Lawson, political science instructor and dean of Business, Intra-American Studies and Social Sciences, students learn and perform better when involved in some kind of community help that applies to their studies. “When students experience some form of community service it supports learning, particularly if there is a relationship between course content and the community service.”
Lawson says the experience promotes students becoming more politically and civically engaged. “It’s powerful stuff. When students get involved in their community, they learn that they are the ones that are often the biggest beneficiaries.”
The class was Zweifach’s most ambitious community service learning project. “It stretched me as a professional and allowed me to share my passion for volunteerism with the students,” she said.
At the end of the quarter, the students developed personal stress management plans, which they shared with class members. Many expressed a desire to come back and volunteer at future classes at Doe Bay Resort.
For information about the class, please contact Zweifach at firstname.lastname@example.org.